Margaret Afriyie the midwife farmer | Read about the little effort of a midwife in a remote part of Ghana and how it is making a big change in the lives of many in their community.
GHN: Good evening Madam, tell us about yourself and your childhood
MA: Oh okay, I am Margaret Afriyie, I was born in Kumasi. Kwadaso to be precise.
I stayed in Kwadaso for six years and later my family moved from Kwadaso to Afrankyo…Kronoma afrankyo, and I have been staying at kronoma afrankyo to date.
By way of schooling, I started at Triumphant Education Center, Tanoso, opposite Yaa Asantewa Girls. This was somewhere around 1994 or so. We came to afrankyo in 1998, so from there, I went to Full Gospel in Afrankyo for a year. At that time, my father was teaching at St. Anns Anglican so we stopped Full Gospel and he sent us to St Anns Anglican, from there, I came to St. Ann JHS and completed in 2003.
That time I was….[hesitates to mention her age]…but I was very smallish,
I entered secondary school the same year, 2003 at Adventist SHS, from there I went to Mampong Nursing and Midwifery for two years and was posted to Sabronum upon completion.
I worked at the Sabronum Health Center in the Ahafo Ano South District.
I worked there for three years and I left for further studies at Manpong again for the midwifery course.
I come from a family of 7 seven. My mother, father, 4 boys and a girl and I am the girl.
GHN: what’s your number?
MA: I am number three (3), and I am in the middle, so they should be ready.
Margaret Afriyie the midwife farmer
GHN: Ready for what?
MA: Ahh!…to meet their “Akonta”) to wit “brother-in-law”
GHN: Have you always wanted to be a Nurse from childhood?
MA: Yes, I have always wanted to be a nurse
GHN: Why? What is the motivation?
MA: When I was young, I used to care for the sick at home, for example, when my brother falls sick, I will be worried and ask “what will you eat”.
Sometimes, I get scared and ask if something going to happen to him.
I’ve had a passion for the work since infancy, that’s why I entered into nursing.
GHN: You have hit the headlines because of the exceptional work you do in the village. Did you want to be at a place like that when you were in school or you were just posted there?
MA: I was posted there. I used to be in the Health Center at Sabronum, but now at a CHPS compound there, precisely Ahwerem community.
After my midwifery course, our director said when you are in a health center and you go for further studies, he won’t post you to the Health Center again, you have to go to a CHPS Compound.
I wasn’t bothered because it is within the same district. I was posted to the Ahwerem community in 2017.
GHN: Which means you know the District and their problems already.
MA: As for Ahwerem, that was the first time I heard of the town. I was in the same District but I wasn’t familiar with that particular town. I didn’t hear of the place, that was the first time, when I got the letter, I showed it to my Medical Director at Mankranso District, Dr.Roberto Frank Okyere.
I took a shot and sent it to him, and he asked if l would go, and I said yes.
He motivated me and said if I didn’t want to go too I should let him know, and I told him I will go, so he shouldn’t worry, he was one of the people who made me like the village.
GHN: So now take as through, the first time you set foot on the place, how did it come to you?
MA: First time hmm, I was a bit scared but when I got there my in-charge was there. Hannah Afrane.
So the time we went for a home visit, and I saw those mud houses I asked myself, are they sleeping in these?
There is no mattress, the floor is not cemented, the rooms look like the normal ground outside, so I asked her, have they been sleeping on the floor like that? and she said yes and I said wow, so from there we started going to the thick villages, which I will call a one-man village, over there it is horrible and when my in-charge left, I was the only one left. I also started going for the home visit in the rural areas and I realized that they were not coming for antenatal care, even during the delivery they will deliver at home, so I talked to my team. We are four in number now, two enrolled nurses and one community health nurse.
I talked to them that I want to start something. Previously, I talked to my mum about the situation and she told me to give them diapers. I decided to add two things of milk to it, this was to encourage them to attend antenatal services.
Also, after delivery, we prepare milo and bread for them and whenever we have eggs we fry it for you the mother as well. By January this year into February what we were doing went viral, that’s it.
GHN: When it went viral, how did it come to you? Did it come to you as a surprise? Here is a nurse in a remote part of our country encouraging people to come antenatal for diapers and two tins of milk and then suddenly you are all over in within the media landscape.
MA: In fact, I feel sick and my colleagues had to encourage me, they kept telling me “don’t be afraid, you have to be bold”
And the calls that were coming were from all over, Ministers were calling, some top officials were calling, my temperature kept rising till it got to over 39 Celsius degree. I started wondering what was happening.
GHN: Has it in any way changed the way the village women now come for antenatal services?
MA: Yeah, yeah, at first when I started we were having about 34 – 35 but when I started that, to be frank, when they come I was also giving them vitamin C, when they come for the services, I put one in water for it to dissolve and give it to them, I then ask them to ask their husbands if they can afford it, then I buy it for them, but if they can’t, I will give them one, once a month, when they come antenatal. This made them very excited. They were passing comments like “this madam is good oo, when you visit; she puts something in the water for you to drink”.
Attendance was poor between 34 -35, but when I started this it went up to 65 per attendance, and the average is 45, and the numbers have not dropped since we started.
GHN: But hasn’t that also put a strain on resources, you may need more, there is also going to be a bit of financial pressure because now you are handling more people.
MA: Yeah, God been so good one of my patients has introduced me to farming and I am into entrepreneurship already. I am into beads and fascinators, but I am not able to do it anymore because of the pressure of work.
When I was introduced to farming, I was happy because I and my brothers did farming sometime back. I asked her to give me the requirements I needed to start, he gave me, and we started and I have been using some of the profits to buy the milk and the dippers for them.
Margaret Afriyie the midwife farmer
GHN: So you farm?
GHN: I have seen pictures of you in your farm spraying cabbage or whatever it is…
MA: Yes its cabbage.
GHN: You do all that yourself?
MA: No I have farmers.
GHN: How big is your farm?
MA: I started with 2 acres but now I have 7 and a half acres.
GHN: That’s huge. Who buys your product?
MA: A lot, some from Accra, Tema, Eastern Region, Kumasi. They all come and buy.
GHN: Do you see yourself leaving that community soon looking at what is happing?
MA: No! not now, I don’t think so because when I went viral, and I travelled, the authorities have been calling me. My people at the office have been calling to say “the women were here oo when they did not see you some were saying you have left the community, some even came here to cry”
GHN: Oh no
MA: Even when I’m in a meeting they will be calling me. “Madam, where are you?” and I will tell them that I’m not gone, I’m in a meeting I will come back, then they will relax. And for now, even if the authorities decide to uproot me, I don’t think they will buy that idea.
GHN: What is the way forward for you? It looks like this whole thing has taken a different twist and turn altogether, is it going to affect your way forward, which is your carrier, do you see yourself doing more in rural communities?
MA: Yeah, I have started an initiative and I don’t know if you have seen it, the Margaret Afriyie Mother and Child Initiative, and is not going to be in Ahrewam alone, we are praying to extend it to the rural communities and throughout Ghana so that is not going to be like it is at Aherem alone which is benefiting from it. The main idea is to get rid of home delivery. That is our main idea because the home delivery rate at where I work was too high but now it has reduced and in January, we had 4 deliveries.
GHN: At Home?
MA: No in our facility, in February we had 7 deliveries, March was 13, April 12, May 12 and June 11
GHN: So is like more people are delivering at the facility compared to delivery at home?
MA: Yeah, and if you can visit the antenatal more than 8 visits I will give you some diapers and tin of milk, a tin of milo and a loaf of bread and if possible some baby layers.
GHN: I should get pregnant and come there.
MA: We are waiting for you.
GHN: So tell us, you have started an initiative, how do you see this initiative going?
MA: Oh is doing well, some people have been donating.
GHN: Before we end it, let me take your view on Government or if you like the Ministry of Health or the Ghana Health Service’s work in rural communities, as a ministry and as a service you think they are doing well with the provision of resources or you think that there is got to be extra work done by the staff like you are doing.
MA: I don’t think we have to blame Government, we the staff have to do something about it. Someone might say maybe I have the money that’s why but that’s not it. Someone might come to the centre but may not have the money to pay for the scan, the scan is also needed to see if the position of the baby, if the person has no money, I do provide it for them to travel to go and have the scan done.
When a case is beyond the centre and they need to be referred, I can’t let them go alone, I accompany then to the higher facility. It is not about having all the money, your little effort of being with them to show you care is even much more valuable.
GHN: I hear you have connected electricity somewhere, tell us about it.
MA: Yeah it wasn’t me alone, it was myself and my other colleagues, we contributed and connected it from a nearby house to our place.
GHN: Exactly where your residence or the CHPS compound?
MA: I stay at the CHPS compound so is the same place.
GHN: You might have changed the place now with electricity, I’m sure.
MA: Yeah but the power is too low that it can’t even sustain the refrigerator so our medicines are kept in the town, at Pokukrom where we have our health centre so during CWC we go to get them.
GHN: What is CWC?
MA: Child Welfare Clinic. That’s the weighing, we go for the drugs whenever we have CWC and give it out to them including the pregnant women.
GHN: All right let’s bring it all to an end. How does the future look for you and community health nursing?
MA: Community health nursing. (Pauses a while). For me is interesting work, because, in that rural area, you see a lot of things and the people there make you happy. That’s what I have experienced.
GHN: Given the chance to choose a country of citizenship, would you choose to be a Ghanaian?
MA: Yes, I would always choose Ghana.
GHN: Do you have a philosophy of life?
MA: Yes I do, it is that don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed.
GHN: Thank you for your time
Margaret Afriyie the midwife farmer